March 20, 2017

United and divided: Muslim-Americans under Trump

Facing Islamophobia, US Muslims weigh how and when to address racism within their own communities.

When educator Margari Aziza Hill recently gave a talk on combatting racism, she asked members of the audience to close their eyes and imagine an American Muslim. Many said they pictured an Arab-American, even though the two most arguably famous American Muslims are the late civil rights activist Malcolm X and boxer Muhammad Ali.

The experience and concerns of African-American Muslims are rarely represented in the media, where Muslims of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent dominate the narrative and largely define the path toward fighting injustices felt under the Trump administration.

“If we just have one story, that leaves out other people who have overlapping systems of oppression,” Hill, the co-founder of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, told Al Jazeera's The Stream ahead of her appearance on the programme Monday, March 20. “If we’re going to tackle a hostile administration, then we definitely need to get our mind right. Where are our principles as a community? What are our ethics for public policy?”

President Donald Trump's ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries has triggered new public awareness and civic engagement to check Islamophobia. But as Muslim-Americans work to capitalise on this upsurge of unity from outside their communities, they are grappling with internal racial divisions.

“The relationship between African-American and immigrant-origin, non-black Muslims has been in tatters for a while,” interfaith and anti-racism educator Hind Makki says, noting that Trump's election has made this tension difficult to ignore.

“Some people will say there's racism in Muslim communities but we should form a united front … because we have external attacks. But the problem with a united front is it's not an internal united front,” Makki said before her appearance on The Stream on Monday.

She notes that Muslim-Americans who immigrated to the United States largely focus on national security, Trump’s travel ban and foreign policy, while African-American Muslim groups are concerned about cuts to social services to children and the elderly, as well as racial profiling by the police and justice system.

Hill and Makki will join Imam Omar Suleiman, president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and Marc Manley, religious director of the Middle Ground Muslim Center, to discuss how Trump's election has laid bare the unity and divisions with Muslim-American communities. They will also share how people are strategising to fight injustice from sources both outside and within.

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Hind Makki @HindMakki
Interfaith and Anti-Racism Educator

Margari Aziza Hill @Margari_Aziza
Co-founder, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

Imam Marc Manley @manrilla
Religious Director, Middle Ground Muslim Center

Imam Omar Suleiman @omarsuleiman504
President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

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